Tivoli youth seek peace through resolution project
Erin Hansen, Gleaner Writer
"Before you deal with the present and the future, you have to deal with the past," Max Earle, photographer and Tivoli Resolution Project organiser, told The Gleaner.
Last Saturday evening at Grosvenor Galleries, the photographs of ten young men from Tivoli Gardens were displayed as part of the Tivoli Resolution Project. The project is the brainchild of senior adviser to the minister of education, Dr Rebecca Tortello, who felt the youth in the area needed a creative outlet to articulate their experiences after May's incursion into the community.
Tortello, along with Earle, art therapist Rozi Chung and clinical psychiatrist Tammy Haynes, held a two-week workshop at the Tivoli Gardens Community Centre to engage with young men through an artistic medium.
The project provided 10 boys between the ages of 13 and 18 with their own digital cameras and journals to document their stories after the civil unrest in the community. Themes suggested for the pictures and writing included family, friends, self, community and environment. The process is an emotional purging through artistic form to try and understand what stays the same and what changes.
The images were displayed across the gallery walls in a long band of uniform rectangular shapes. The images bared no author, the words chosen from the boy's journals remained anonymous. The photographs revealed, from the starting point, images of charred homes and bullet-pocked walls before slowly intertwining with images of friends embracing and then ending with portraits of sisters, mothers, children and brothers.
Earle described the exhibition as intentionally taking that artistic path, so as to underline that despite the destruction of the environment, the community continues to grow. But in an unintentional way, that almost mirrors history, the rectangular room bridges finish to starting point and like a cycle, the path of destruction begins all over again.
One of the most disappointing scenarios of the evening was the fact that none of the young Tivoli photographers had travelled to the Grosvenor event, despite a shuttle bus having been made available all evening at the community centre.
It being a Saturday night, naturally the project organisers had weekend events to compete with. However, the very action and place of the art opening would easily have displaced the young men, who live under very different circumstances than the primarily uptown crowd that mingled in the gallery's Manor Park location.
Despite the project's community-oriented theme, there seemed to be very little of Tivoli's community present, which more likely would be the boys' intended audience.
That does not discount the process of the project, which was primarily about introducing the prospect of counselling to the young men who may be suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. By expressing themselves through media such as dance, photography, writing and drama, in art therapy, a child may become more open to discussing personal experience and reconciling painful events.
In this case, after the project was completed, all the young men agreed that they would be interested in seeking out counselling.
As for the project's momentum, the intention is to push forward.
"We want to get the exhibition in as many places as possible to help pay for the counselling," said Earle, who intends to get the exhibition to the United States in the coming months. Once the photographs have made their circulation, they will then be returned to Tivoli Gardens where they will be hung on the community centre's walls.
Still, the process of resolution is ongoing. The project has long-term plans with the education-oriented Chichibud Foundation to continue efforts in bringing counselling to the community through art, but further outreach will be needed.
"Jamaicans have a tendency to sweep everything under the rug," said Earle. "This project intends to lift up the rug and get everything out of there, otherwise, you'll never get over it." Which, for youth in Tivoli, requires community beyond the means of their local neighbourhood or art community. It means the community of a nation.
The Tivoli Resolution Project exhibition will be on display at Grosvenor Galleries until November 5.